Kutztown University Pre-Veterinary Club lends helping hand to furry friends at Berks Animal Rescue League

Photo by Russ Shanahan Bryce Gilson, KU junior, with four month old kitten James; Nicole Ruscitti, KU junior; and Arielle Schoenlein, with four month old kitten Fred. Kittens are available for adoption from The Cat Works.

Kutztown University Pre-Veterinary Club members devoted a Sunday morning at the Berks County Animal Rescue League, site of Fairchild Foundation’s monthly feline spay and neuter clinic.

Animal carriers lined the walls. As clients rushed in, volunteers hustled to process the numerous cats. The atmosphere was frenetic – every available surgical appointment was scheduled.

“Once we get going, the whole process goes pretty quickly,” said Bryce Gilson, KU junior and member of the Pre-Vet Club. “Right now, I’m helping to separate the feral cats from the pet cats, which is necessary because the feral cats could have diseases.”

The spay and neuter clinic, which typically operates on the third Sunday of every month, was busier than ever.

“We created 25 spots for pet cats, in addition to our regular stray and feral appointments,” explained Elly Eshbach, a volunteer with the Fairchild Foundation. “So many people can’t afford to go to the vet, or their cat becomes pregnant and then spaying/neutering becomes necessary. We only require a small donation – all of the proceeds from our December clinic were donated to the Animal Rescue League.”

Eshbach said after cats receive services, which include treating for mites, eye and ear infections and other issues, “they are cleaner, friendlier and healthier.”

After intake, cats are sedated and prepared for surgery. Next, their claws are manicured by volunteers, their ears are cleaned and their eyes are moistened. Blood is drawn to test ferals for feline AIDS and leukemia. Cats are also vaccinated and treated for tapeworms, roundworms and other diseases. After surgery, ferals’ ears are tipped to make it easier to identify them. For these tasks, the assistance of the Pre-Vet Club is essential.

“It’s so helpful to have students willing to assist with these tasks,” said Jess Ciepoinski, a volunteer with the Fairchild Foundation. “People with a medical background are especially useful during the spay/neuter clinics, because they are able to administer shots and medication. We always appreciate their help.”

The Fairchild Foundation, a non-profit organization, is run entirely by volunteers, which is why the Pre-Vet Club made a commitment to volunteer at their monthly clinics.

“Volunteering also benefits us,” said Arielle Schoenlein, co-president of the Pre-Vet Club. “While here, we have the opportunity to fill out charts, learn how to give vaccines, prepare supplies for surgery and obtain valuable experience for veterinary school.”

Every cat altered by the Fairchild Foundation represents thousands of animals that are saved from the shelter or euthanasia each year. If one female cat and her kittens kept reproducing, the total number of offspring in a seven year span would exceed 400,000.

“We are trying to raise enough funds to open our own facility,” said Dr. Jennifer Fry, veterinarian and executive director of Fairchild Foundation. “My dream is to have a place we could hold more spay and neuter clinics, have a retail store, sell cat toys, adopt cats out and, most importantly, provide a sanctuary for cats. Maybe if I won the lottery,” she chuckled.

On Sunday, April 14, the Foundation will host a basket bingo, bake sale and “white elephant” auction at the Grill Fire Company, 739 Mountain View Road, Reading, to benefit stray and feral cats in Berks County. Doors open at noon and the event begins at 1 p.m.

Tickets purchased in advance available at the Banfield Pet Hospital of Pottstown, in Petsmart, Town Square Road; Elly’s Beauty Shop, Sinking Spring; or by contacting Linda Z at sonicbooms15@aol.com. Tickets sold door.

For more about the Fairchild Feral Friends Foundation, visit www.fairchildcat.org.

Cats are available for adoption through The Cat Works, in Reading. Additional information available at www.thecatworksinc.org.

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